INDIO, California — On a day that had festivalgoers packing ponchos instead of sunblock and the merchandise booths no doubt sold a record number of hoodies, the uncharacteristic weather at Coachella’s Friday kickoff was no match for the heat of the Black Keys.
The Akron, Ohio, guitar-and-drums blues-rock duo instantly had the crowd in their hands, opening with the “Howlin’ For You” sing-along from their 2010 commercial breakthrough, Brothers.
Announced earlier this week as headliners for Lollapalooza 2012 in August, the Keys also performed Friday night at Coachella in 2011, but this year, they were promoted to top billing.
The pair wailed through the Grammy-winning “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy.” During “Everlasting Light,” a giant disco ball descended as frontman Dan Auerbach unleashed his falsetto. Auerbach asked the crowd to wish a happy birthday to drummer Patrick Carney before ending with “I Got Mine.”
Swedish House Mafia closed out the main stage, proving that some EDM has outgrown the Sahara dance tent. The masses were jumping to the beats of Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, who is also playing a solo set in the Sahara on Saturday (April 14). Angello will DJ a solo set in June at Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival .
“I heard there was a rumor going around that the reason it was gray and muggy earlier is because there were two Sheffield [England] bands on,” Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker quipped, referring to earlier mainstagers the Arctic Monkeys.
In the Gobi tent, Frank Ocean fans swooned over his take on Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing” and other cuts from his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra. The crowd excitedly welcomed Tyler, the Creator to the stage early in the set to growl his Odd Future “Analog 2″ verses.
Influential Swedish hardcore band Refused expressed gratitude for their long-awaited reunion, saying, “The reason we’re playing tonight is because Coachella invited us.” Their hour-long performance, which inspired lots of head-banging and moshing, included “Coup D’Etat,” “Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull,” “Tannhauser/Derive” and “New Noise.”
Elsewhere, the Black Angels psychedelic blues — which included a sitar — didn’t draw nearly the crowd it deserved, Madness had the Outdoor stage skanking away and Rancid’s Tim Armstrong backed Jimmy Cliff on guitar.
In response to last year’s event selling out — a week after the 2011 lineup was announced — Coachella is experimenting with featuring the same artists for two consecutive three-day weekends: April 13-15 and April 20-22.
Still to come this weekend: Radiohead, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, A$AP Rocky and the At the Drive-In reunion.
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